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Friday, 13 April 2018

POLICE FIRE RUBBER BULLETS AT PROTEST

Police in Swaziland fired rubber bullets as about 2,000 workers and supporters took to the streets of the capital Mbabane to protest against worsening living conditions on Friday (13 April 2018).

It came only days before dignities are expected to converge on the kingdom to celebrate King Mswati III’s 50th birthday and the 50th anniversary of Swaziland’s independence on 19 April 2018.

The AFP news agency reported one protestor was hit in the thigh by a rubber bullet.

‘Police tussled with protesters, some of whom burnt tyres and blocked roads, as they made their way to the prime minister's office to deliver a petition.,’ AFP reported.

‘Some marchers attempted to tear down the gates at the PM's office and force their way inside but were blocked by police,’ it added.

The demonstration to deliver 16 demands to government was organised by the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA).

King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Elections are due to take place this year but political parties are banned from taking part. The King chooses the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers.

It was reported widely on social media that the King took delivery of a second private jet aircraft on the morning of the demonstration. King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle with 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the range BMW and Mercedes cars. Seven in ten of his 1.1 million subjects live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

Meanwhile, King Mswati’s government has said it has no money for wage increases or annual cost-of-living adjustments.

The unions have already announced they plan three months of protest against government over a range of issues including tax increases, the minimum wage, social welfare programmes and unfavourable labour laws.

TUCOSWA Deputy Secretary General Muzi Mhlanga was reported by the Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland (25 March 2018) saying the demonstration was just the beginning and more protests were to be staged if their demands were not met.

‘We are beginning on the 13th of April. We have been writing to the different ministries concerned and they have not responded while others have provided unsatisfactory responses. For instance, we wrote a letter to the Ministry of Natural Resources alerting them that we were against the hike on electricity tariffs and we are not happy with their response, just like several other ministries,’ he said.

Mhlanga said more protests would be staged in three consecutive months; June, July and August.

See also

SWAZI POLICE BLOCK WORKERS’ PROTEST
PUBLIC SERVANTS PAY STRIKE ON WAY

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